Cardiac tamponade

Nat Rev Dis Primers. 2023 Jul 20;9(1):36. doi: 10.1038/s41572-023-00446-1.


Cardiac tamponade is a medical emergency caused by the progressive accumulation of pericardial fluid (effusion), blood, pus or air in the pericardium, compressing the heart chambers and leading to haemodynamic compromise, circulatory shock, cardiac arrest and death. Pericardial diseases of any aetiology as well as complications of interventional and surgical procedures or chest trauma can cause cardiac tamponade. Tamponade can be precipitated in patients with pericardial effusion by dehydration or exposure to certain medications, particularly vasodilators or intravenous diuretics. Key clinical findings in patients with cardiac tamponade are hypotension, increased jugular venous pressure and distant heart sounds (Beck triad). Dyspnoea can progress to orthopnoea (with no rales on lung auscultation) accompanied by weakness, fatigue, tachycardia and oliguria. In tamponade caused by acute pericarditis, the patient can experience fever and typical chest pain increasing on inspiration and radiating to the trapezius ridge. Generally, cardiac tamponade is a clinical diagnosis that can be confirmed using various imaging modalities, principally echocardiography. Cardiac tamponade is preferably resolved by echocardiography-guided pericardiocentesis. In patients who have recently undergone cardiac surgery and in those with neoplastic infiltration, effusive-constrictive pericarditis, or loculated effusions, fluoroscopic guidance can increase the feasibility and safety of the procedure. Surgical management is indicated in patients with aortic dissection, chest trauma, bleeding or purulent infection that cannot be controlled percutaneously. After pericardiocentesis or pericardiotomy, NSAIDs and colchicine can be considered to prevent recurrence and effusive-constrictive pericarditis.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Cardiac Tamponade* / diagnosis
  • Cardiac Tamponade* / etiology
  • Cardiac Tamponade* / surgery
  • Humans
  • Pericardial Effusion* / diagnosis
  • Pericardial Effusion* / etiology
  • Pericardial Effusion* / therapy
  • Pericardiocentesis / adverse effects
  • Pericardiocentesis / methods
  • Pericarditis* / complications
  • Pericarditis* / diagnosis
  • Pericarditis* / surgery
  • Pericarditis, Constrictive* / complications
  • Pericarditis, Constrictive* / diagnosis
  • Pericarditis, Constrictive* / surgery